Vic Galloway has been a tireless champion of new music for some time now, an established figure both within British broadcasting, and internationally.
With a keen set of ears and a mean way with the pen - check out his book 'Songs In The Key Of Fife' if you haven't already - he is the perfect candidate to fill Clash in on who was hot at this year's SXSW.
Take it away, Vic...
I'm a veteran of SXSW and this was my 14th visit in a row to Austin,Texas the 'Live Music Capital of the World'. As you can imagine, I saw many many bands each day but here's a list of 10 favourites...
- - -
Thee Oh Sees
Thee best rock'n'roll band on the planet right now, in my humble opinion. As a LIVE act they have no have no rivals whatsoever. Garage-punk legend, front-man, guitarist and songwriter John Dwyer is a force of nature with more energy than someone half his age. This year at SXSW, the band had a five night residency at the best venue in Austin, the Hotel Vegas. With two indoor stages and one outdoor, it is the perfect place to see the full gamut of wild-man rock'n'roll from across the USA, and indeed the world.
They don't come any wilder and more committed than Thee Oh Sees, who I saw twice this year (three times in 2015!!)... I would have watched them all five times but that would have been plain greedy! Make sure you catch them at Primavera Festival if you're going - the two drum-kit, bass and 12-string guitar line-up is hefty!-
The Spook School
One of 13 acts from Scotland that attended SXSW 2016, lo-fi indie punk-popsters The Spook School maybe worked the hardest of all out under the Texan sun. With a total of 10 shows, they secured deals with US music industry partners and charmed the pants off all who saw them. After missing them on various occasions, partly due to my own disorganisation, I finally saw them at their official showcase at Tap Room at the Market, sandwiched on a bill between wannabe, bling, hip-hop types. They seemed gloriously out of place especially given their transgender singer-songwriter Nye Todd and the relevant, lyrical subject matter of his buzz-saw anthems. But the amassed throng there to support the band lapped it up all the more.
- - -
As part of a Buzz Records party on East 6the street in the Wonderland bar and venue, Weaves were on my 'to see list' in advance of SXSW. Having recently signed to the Memphis Industries label in the UK, I was interested in the Canadian band's sound immediately. In a live setting they step beyond their impressive studio recordings with an off-kilter, improvised and slightly unhinged performance that drew on Captain Beefheart, XTC and Stump to my ears, whilst front-woman Jasmyn Burke is total star in the making.
Wonderful, joyous, weird pop music - hopefully you'll hear a lot more from them in 2016.
- - -
You may have heard about or seen pictures of these guys already - I had, but hadn't actually witnessed the live show yet. SXSW 2016 was my opportunity. Anyone awarded favourable comparisons to rasta-hardcore DC legends Bad Brains has to be worth investigating in my book. Playing the rather up-market venue The Belmont seemed a little incongruous and, due to the passing rainstorm, the crowd were a little thin on the ground for their outdoor performance.
However those there saw an epic, theatrical and utterly visceral show that reminded me of Death Grips, Young Fathers, and the aforementioned Bad Brains. Hip-Hop, industrial, electronic noise and hardcore punk all thrown together in an unholy brew, complete with home-made Kanye West masks and an audience circle pit... Lovely!
- - -
Ezra Furman & The Boyfriends
Becoming a staple on daytime BBC 6Music, after being championed by Marc Riley in the evenings for years, and playing to larger and larger crowds in the UK; Ezra Furman seems to be lesser known stateside. Having said that, the bizarre 80's Goth interior of the venue, Elysium was packed full of eager onlookers ready for a bite-sized chunk of our favourite cross-dressing troubadour. Accompanied by his trusty musical cohorts The Boyfriends, the set was drawn from the new 'Perpetual Motion People' album.
Raw, explosive, dramatic and fun, Jonathan Richman, Violent Femmes and the Rocky Horror Picture Show (!) all came to mind. It was a genuinely great show until the bass cabinet blew up, bringing proceedings to an end. Somehow it didn't seem to matter.
I discovered this band at SXSW 2015 thanks to a recommendation from a fellow music nerd... and thank the lord I did! La Luz are a Seattle girl group combine ethereal, dreamy 60's pop and super-tight surf-guitar twang. I needed another fix, having missed them on a brief UK tour last year, so saw them at Cheer Up Charlie's this year too. They were sublime. The songwriting and melodies are sharp and catchy, and the guitar work is extremely impressive. The new worlds of surf, psyche and garage have new poster-girls, and current album 'Weirdo Shrine' deserves a space in your collection.
- - -
London brothers Will and Matt Ritson are causing a wee stir in the UK just now, thanks mainly to their 'Under the Tracks' EP which is really strong. Taking the groove-laden LCD Soundsystem template but injecting some soul and grit from the capital's streets, serves the band well. What's more, they weren't shy of using the cowbell loads! This was the first time I'd seen them, complete with a 5-piece band at Latitude 30, the self-styled British Music Embassy. I was hooked immediately and look forward to getting stuck into a full album. See them at festivals this summer - you won't fail to dance.
- - -
Another Seattle band that grabbed my attention was Night Beats, who played at the Barracuda venue as part of the Heavenly Records showcase. Heavenly are always bastions of impeccable taste anyway, I should have known the band would be special. Taking elements of psych, soul and heavy rock, the trio whisked up a storm despite having a few technical problems. If this was them on a temperamental night, then they can surely only impress further with all engines firing.
Out of the newest batch of bands from the global psych and garage revival, I could see these guys crossing over further.
NYC producer James Hinton goes out under The Range moniker and his new album 'Potential' on the Domino label has intrigued me, after hearing the single 'Florida'. All the vocals on the album were sourced from YouTube by Hinton who has then cut, sliced, augmented and effected them to make the backbone of his new songs.
Championed by CHVRCHES, with whom I watched his set at SXSW 2016; his luscious dubstep-inflected electronic pop is euphoric and addictive to the ears.The live set right now is quite stripped back and simple, but it might be nice to see The Range complete with these guests singers onstage one day.
After so many repeat visits to SXSW, I know that intoxicating blend of sunshine, margaritas, Tex-Mex and loud guitars is extremely heady. Certain musical styles and genres just feel right, especially when surrounded by the beautiful and the bad head to toe in tattoos. Rock'n'Roll in all its myriad forms just fits here. Austin is a rock'n'roll town and you can feel it everywhere. Some groups come to SXSW and don't quite fit in, whereas others suit the place down to the ground.
From Madrid, primitive garage-punk trio The Parrots were totally at home with their essential mix of The Monks, Bo Diddley and The Black Lips. Not without a sense of humour and the will to party, they were the first act I saw at SXSW 2016 and remained a highlight until the end. Who's a pretty boy then?!!
- - -